One of my goals when starting to blog was to create an opportunity for myself to write about the things in life that are very important to me. With the holidays upon us, probably the biggest things on my mind right now are giving thanks and expressing kindness and love through gift-giving. These same thoughts reside in my friend Katie's mind and heart all year-round, not simply at this time of year. She is a volunteer in the Peace Corps and has been working in small villages in Guatemala for the last 2 1/2 years. An International Studies and Spanish major in college, Katie has always been destined for big exciting and worthwhile work.
Katie's main purpose for working in Guatemala has been to engineer and establish systems for clean drinking water. Along the way, she has found a more focused niche of providing clean water as well as hand-washing stations in communities with schools, and also providing the necessary guidance and education along with those new facilities.
Stunned by the lack of many schools in these villages and the dilapidated condition of the ones that do exist, Katie has embarked on a courageous and inspiring project to raise the money needed to build two desperately needed schools. Perhaps we can do something to help bring her - and the communities and families there - closer to their goal.
A classroom inside a school nicknamed The Chicken Coop.
A school built last year in the village of Xenimajuyu.
The grateful recipients of one of the newly built schools.
A plaque dedicating a new school library.
If you'd like to find out more about the project or Katie's experiences in the Peace Corps, check out the links below to her Travelpod Blog as well as her secure donation web site.
Katie is truly an incredible person. She makes friends very easily. She's well-traveled; independent; confident; strong. She's extremely intelligent (hello, she skipped 1st grade), but also a little ditzy, if we're being totally honest here. She's funny. She even stayed my friend and didn't make fun of me when I wasn't allowed to go to her 11th birthday party because it involved seeing a PG-13 movie. And, best of all, when I write her a letter, she writes me back! No kidding!
I've talked (that is, emailed) with Katie just a handful of times in the last year, but undoubtedly when she returns to Columbus this Christmas, we will get together and chat and laugh and hang out exactly the way we did in high school. I am so lucky to have a friendship like ours - one in which we do our best to stay in touch while she is off on some new adventure, but then so effortlessly pick up where we left off the next time we get together. Of course there are new things to learn about one another, but there is never a moment of awkwardness or strangeness between us. I know that is hard to come by. And I am so proud of her, so grateful for her unwavering friendship, and so inspired by the amazing work she is doing for others in a completely different part of the world.
Read Katie's Travelpod blog here.
Read more about the fundraiser here.
(Photos courtesy of La mona feliz's flickr account.)
1/22/09 UPDATE: Katie has reached Goal #1! She has secured donations to cover the costs of building a school for one of the communities she's come to know while working in Guatemala. Hooray! Imagine the committment, work and dedication she's exhibited to get to this stage. Now comes the meetings with the mayor and other community leaders to get the plans really rolling. Good luck, Katie, and Congratulations!!!